Texas Emergency Management ONLINE 2016 Vol. 63 No. 5

The Spring Weather Outlook

Severe Weather Season

The Texas severe weather season has been fairly active, after getting an early start with multiple reports of large hail across East Texas on January 8. Late February saw storms track across South Texas before multiple events occurred through the month of March. Five tornadoes, hail and damaging wind stretched across the state on the March 8 from the Rio Grande to the D/FW Metroplex. North and Central Texas continued to be active in terms of severe weather throughout the rest of March with numerous hail and damaging wind events. The second half of April saw another uptick in severe weather with severe storms in the Panhandle, wind and tornadoes in the D/FW Metro, large hail in the San Antonio area, and more flooding in Houston. Based on the storm reports from the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma, we have seen at least 14 tornadoes in Texas so far in 2016.

Looking forward into May, the Climate Forecast System (CFS) model is suggesting development of another active period. Although the main focus of the severe weather looks to be across the Central Plains, the CFS model does hint at more severe weather activity from North Texas down into South Central Texas. While the vast majority of severe weather reports have been for severe hail and damaging winds through the first three months of the year, the peak tornado season for most areas of the state is yet to come, during the months of April and May. In addition to severe weather, the late spring is traditionally the beginning of flash flood season. 

Three-Month Outlook

The most recent three-month outlook covers the period of May through July. The graphics from the Climate Prediction Center (CPC) show an equal chance for temperatures to be above/below normal, and a 30-40 percent chance of having above-normal precipitation. For the year-to-date precipitation across Texas (as of the beginning of April) most areas are near normal. Areas of the Panhandle and West Texas have only 50 to 70 percent of normal precipitation so far this year, with East Texas and parts of Central and South Texas two to eight inches above normal. A new one-month climate outlook will be available for May from the CPC on May 1. All of the graphics can be accessed from their homepage: NWS Climate Prediction Center.

Drought

As of April 26, 2016 U.S. Drought monitor, over 85 percent of the state of Texas is drought free! With the recent precipitation across the Texas Panhandle, some areas are seeing decreased drought while the eastern Panhandle has seen a sliver of severe drought added. These are some of the same areas that currently have below-normal precipitation for the year. The Seasonal Drought Outlook produced by CPC shows that Texas is colored white. This is good news as CPC does not expect any large drought development over Texas through the end of June. It is important to note that the outlook is a general overview, and might not pick up short-lived events, similar to the flash drought we saw last fall. With near-normal precipitation over most of the state so far and above-normal precipitation possible through July, the state looks in good shape when it comes to avoiding drought conditions.

El Niño

El Niño has begun to weaken, and this trend is expected through the spring. Most of the climate models now show neutral ENSO conditions by the summer with some hinting at La Niña developing late this summer into fall. More information is to come on the summer and tropical outlooks in later Texas Emergency Management Online articles, so stay tuned!
The big question for parts of Texas might be, “What happened to the wet and cool winter we were expecting with El Niño?” Here are a few reasons why we didn’t see that, compiled by Meteorologist Larry Hopper of the Austin/San Antonio Weather Forecast Office:

  1. While El Niño tilts the odds towards a wetter/cooler winter, Texas still tends to be drier and warmer 30-40 percent of the time during an El Niño winter.
  2. The lack of Arctic outbreaks decreased the number of freezes.
  3. The storm tracks—the polar and subtropical jets—took the storms away from our area, with the polar jet shifting north, and the subtropical jet shifting south and east.

While most of January and February were dry across the state the other fall and winter months—October, November, December, and March—saw above average precipitation from Central Texas north to the Red River and East Texas.


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